Monday, August 31, 2015

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

Below Stairs
by Margaret Powell
1968
***
3 stars - some good information, but sparse prose
ALR Blue - animals not part of the story



Below Stairs is the autobiography of Margaret Powell focused primarily on her work as a domestic servant in early twentieth century England. It's billed as the inspiration for the two popular TV series, Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs.

It certainly is a less romanticized version of life as a domestic. The reader gets some revealing looks at the drudgery and the overwhelming amount of work to be done day in and day out.

The writing is quite sparse and there are some odd grammatical twists that could be older English or could also be typos. I forgave that until I discovered that Ms. Powell used a ghost writer. Humph. I would have liked a ghost writer to be a bit more of, well, a writer.

The tone of the book is a bit grating. There is the constant comparison of things in "my day" vs. "today" and the author almost universally finds the people of "today" (particularly young people) wanting. I didn't need to be reminded that things change and it left me feeling that the author was mired in the past (despite her rather brutal description of it). 

No matter, it's a quick read and has lots of interesting tidbits.

Here's one quote which I found endearing. It echos a sentiment I often express about how people who lament the stinginess of the rich should look in to their hearts and ask what they'd do in the same situation.

I don't particularly envy rich people but I don't blame them. They try and hang on to their money, and if I had it I'd hang on to it too. Those people who say the rich should share what they've got are talking a lot of my eye and Betty Martin; it's only because they haven't got it they think that way. I wouldn't reckon to share mine around.

Now if somebody would explain to me what "my eye and Betty Martin" means, I'd be most appreciative.






1 comment:

  1. Interesting quote from the book! I never wanted anyone else's money, just the chance to earn my own, and I'm glad to see the sentiment in print. And do let me know what Betty Martin has to do with anything if you ever get a translation of that phrase.

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